Flash Fiction: for writers, readers, editors, publishers, & fans

Monday

Tasha’s Tips for The Aspiring Writer: Write in Other Genres

[Editor’s Note: FlashFiction.Net will be pub­lish­ing tips from Tasha Cot­ter, one every Mon­day, for twenty weeks: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.]

My goal for this series of blog posts is for writ­ers to save them­selves a lot of time and frus­tra­tion. This series is meant to get you on the path toward pub­li­ca­tion, pro­vided you put in the work of writ­ing and revis­ing. Don’t worry if you don’t fol­low all these recommendations–who could? I’ll be the first to admit that even I’m guilty of some­times not using my time wisely–look for my tip on social media! But over­all this series con­tains hard-won truths on how to make writ­ing a big­ger part of your life. I hope it clar­i­fies the pub­lish­ing guide­li­nes, pro­fes­sional eti­quette, and pro­to­cols you may have been unsure about in the past. More than any­thing, I hope it puts you on track toward oppor­tu­ni­ties you may not have imag­ined.

                                        —Tasha
                                        Twit­ter: @TashCotter

Tip #11

Write in Other Gen­res

Through­out col­lege I was enrolled in poetry work­shops. It wasn’t until I was wrap­ping up my MFA in cre­ative writ­ing that I started to write fic­tion. I’d always writ­ten the occa­sional essay, but I found myself grow­ing more and more inter­ested in long-form fic­tion. And so I took it upon myself to read all I could about how a novel is struc­tured.


I dis­cov­ered that I loved the chal­lenge of the novel. Plan­ning it and out­lin­ing it, I loved the sur­prises that came with cre­at­ing a story out of thin air. I became curi­ous about other poets who I knew had writ­ten nov­els. And I began read­ing nov­els with the mind of a detec­tive: how did the writer use this tech­nique and not that one? Why did the nov­el­ist use 3rd per­son point of view and not first per­son point of view? Writ­ing fic­tion allowed me to work on a larger can­vas and work more freely to explore the themes and obses­sions that I’ve always been drawn to in poetry.


And I grew con­vinced that writ­ing in another genre was help­ing me grow as a writer, even if I couldn’t artic­u­late how. My mind seemed to be expand­ing and I was learn­ing how to do some­thing that felt mon­u­men­tal. At times I felt like a world-class jug­gler, as I dealt with keep­ing all the char­ac­ters, voices, and plot-lines alive and well in my story. And I couldn’t help but com­pare and con­trast the expe­ri­ence of writ­ing a novel to that of writ­ing a poem.


I kept to more of a writ­ing sched­ule because I always had more than one project wait­ing in the wings. I grew to love the way I could revisit my novel and con­tin­u­ally work to per­fect each page–a con­stant effort to pol­ish the work until I was done. I also real­ized pretty quickly that my train­ing in poetry had been help­ful to me as an aspir­ing nov­el­ist: my instinct was to com­press and pay close atten­tion to lan­guage. There­fore, once I had an out­line and the gen­eral plot of the story at hand, I could cre­ate the fast-mov­ing story I was after. I was never the sort of writer who was prone to lengthy descrip­tions or overly dense lan­guage. I liked to cut to the chase.


I can’t help but feel that writ­ing fic­tion and non­fic­tion has made me a more well-rounded writer. I’m more com­fort­able writ­ing essays, reviews, flash fic­tion, and short sto­ries because of my inter­est in fic­tion. I still remem­ber how I felt in col­lege at the prospect of writ­ing fic­tion, though. It was just not some­thing I could fathom doing. I rejected the idea com­pletely because I didn’t think it was in my skill-set–I’d only ever writ­ten poetry. What would all my class­mates think?


Writ­ing feels more sat­is­fy­ing to me now than it did in the past. And learn­ing to work in another genre has recal­i­brated what held my imag­i­na­tion all along about cre­ative writ­ing in gen­eral. I prize that sense of won­der and innate curiosity–it’s what keeps me ham­mer­ing away on a given project–I want to see how it’s done. I’m some­one who always likes to be learn­ing more about the cre­ative process and over­com­ing cre­ative chal­lenges. Writ­ing a novel was the ulti­mate challenge–and I never stopped writ­ing poetry.

 

Cotter.jpg

Tasha Cot­ter
, @TashCotter, is a poet and fic­tion writer based in Lex­ing­ton, Ken­tucky. She is the author of two chap­books of poetry and the full-length col­lec­tion, Some Churches (Gold Wake Press, 2013). You can find her online at www.tashacotter.com.

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